I can hear the brand new Mum in the hospital bed next to mine crying. She is trying to be as quiet as she can be, but her cries are echoing through the ward. She is crying because, having just given birth a mere 48 hours ago, she feels she has already failed as a Mum as she is struggling to breastfeed.
I have overheard her over the last two days, speak to every midwife on each shift, begging for help and advice. She is so distressed by giving her baby formula, that every attempt at latching her baby to her breast leaves both Mum and baby frustrated and crying.
A lactation consultant has tried to reassure her that these things sometimes take time, that the most important thing is that the baby is fed. She tries to reassure her that her feeding journey, which has truly just begun, will get easier. And is different for everyone. She reminds her to be kind to herself. Unfortunately though, the expectations we place on ourselves as Mothers, and the unbelievable emotional experience that giving birth can be, is all too much. My heart breaks for her.
I have also given birth 48 hours ago. But the difference between myself and this Mother is that I am a second time Mum. Therefore I have the gift of experience and clarity on my side. I understand that to struggle is not to fail. I understand that what is important right now is to soak in the love I have for my brand new baby, as these moments of them being so small are so fleeting, and to trust that everything else will work itself out.
The utter joy that comes from being a second time Mum is knowing what to expect. There is a lot let second guessing, a lot more confidence in what we are doing. It is still extremely emotional. I miss my first born to the point of heartbreak. But I feel wise as a second time Mum. And I just want to take the first time Mum into my arms and give her the biggest hug and tell her not to worry.
So to the first time Mum, to the new Mum in the hospital bed next to mine, I want to say this:
Be kind to yourself
You have just given birth to a human. The last month of pregnancy probably took a massive physical toll on you. Child birth is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. You have just run a marathon from which you get absolutely no recovery time. So be kind to yourself. You are only human. You will not be perfect, nobody is, but what you have just done is extraordinary.
You will get emotional and that is okay. You don’t have to pretend everything is fine.
Whether or not you had a good pregnancy and wonderful birth experience, your body is absolutely flooded with hormones before and after childbirth. Your energy, moods and emotions are on a rollercoaster. You may feel overjoyed one moment and then sad, moody or overwhelmed the next moment. This is completely normal, but can take many new Mums by surprise. As a second time Mum I expected these hormonal changes and have been able to recognise the signs and just let the tears flow. What you are feeling is normal, but seek help if you need to. There is absolutely no shame in having these emotions, and you do not have to be alone.
Trust your instincts
While you may not have been a mother before, so much of motherhood is purely instinctual. It is a wonderful thing to be open to help and support. It is another thing to question your own instincts based on what others tell us we are doing wrong or could be doing better. While it is important to constantly learn, at the end of the day, YOU are your baby’s Mother and you will make the best decision for yourself and your baby. Trust those instincts of yours as nobody knows your baby as well as you do.
Slow down and soak up these moments
The newborn stage is truly so fleeting. The washing can wait. The sleep routines can wait. All that matters right now is trying to live in the moment and build that bond you have with your baby. I don’t for a moment regret letting my first baby sleep on me for hours as I cuddled him. Now that he is a toddler, I can barely catch him for a quick kiss. Soak up these moments. And slow down. Take some time to take care of yourself. Have a shower. Close your eyes while you drink your coffee. Kiss your partner. Allow yourself to be wrapped in the newborn bubble. It is a time like no other in your life.
Love From The Second Time Mum
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